Stephen King farewells Harry Potter
Just been reading this column by Stephen King. It’s an interesting perspective; King has this uncanny ability to capture what people are thinking but aren’t sure how to say, and I think (as usual) he’s right on the money. There has been so much speculation about what’s going to happen in the final book that no matter what happens, I doubt people will be satisfied. There’s so much feeling surrounding Harry Potter because it means so many different things to different people (escapism, adventure, a reminder of childhood, a measure of lost innocence); people have this idea of what is right and what isn’t right for the story. But in the end it’s possible that no ending will be right, because people are sad that it’s ending at all. I’m sure everyone’s sensed it, that kind of strange melancholy; a mix of anticipation and dread. People want to know the ending, but they don’t want the story to end. As King said, “The magic is not supposed to go away”.
For me it’s a slightly strange feeling. I’ve read all the Potter books, but have never been captivated by them as others have. I read them more because I felt like it was something I should do as a writer myself; I enjoyed them (particularly 3-6, where Rowling really aged the characters and the themes) but never quite got caught up in them the same way as the fans. I suppose I was caught between ages; without younger brothers or sisters myself, I was 2 or 3 years too old for the books when Philosopher’s Stone was first published, and my cousins were several years too young for me to enjoy the series through them. I’m not that sad to see the series ending; I’m interested to see how it finishes, and I think all good series must finish, must have that finality, to truly be remembered. But I do know the feeling fans are experiencing; I felt it with Episode III. It’s the feeling that it’s not just the end of a series, but the end of a period in your life, and you probably won’t feel the same way about something else again.
Think about the original audience of Philosopher’s Stone. Maybe you are one of them, or the parent of one, a child who was 8 years old when Philosopher’s Stone was first published. For 10 years you’ve followed the story of Harry and his friends; as they’ve aged, so have you. You’ve seen parts of your life mirrored in their stories; feelings of angst, Harry’s first kiss, Ron becoming prefect, perhaps even the death of a guardian or a loved one. Now you’re ready to leave school and be on your own – just as Harry, in his last year, prepares for his own final adventure. For you it’s more than the end of a story, it’s the end of this time in your life. Deathly Hallows marks the end of your childhood, your emergence into adulthood, and it’s completely understandable that it’s something you’d have mixed feelings about. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t.
I think that’s what’s really surrounding the launch of Deathly Hallows. But I don’t think it’s a perspective that’s being covered much in the media. It’s easier for them to cover the predicted sales, but it’s an event which isn’t just about the sales and hype, the marketing and merchandise. It’s not even about magic or whether Harry will live or die, in the end; no, it’s about this period in the lives of millions of children drawing to a close as they move into adulthood, the beginning of a new chapter in their lives. Other books, other series, will come along, and JK Rowling may even write some of them… but for this generation, this group of children, nothing will touch them the same way. Harry Potter was with them while they were children; it touched them because Harry grew up with them. That was the magic in their lives, and now it’s the end of their journey. No wonder it’s a bitter-sweet experience.
So even though I haven’t felt that feeling, I understand it, and I’ll be in line over the weekend getting a copy of Deathly Hallows just like everyone else around the world. I’m curious to see how it ends… and yes, I’ll admit it, I’m a little bit sad too. But I’ll be watching people as I’m getting it too, to see what Harry Potter means to them, to see what part of their lives it’s been part of. I think that should be a very interesting experience. What do you think?